Ministering to Young Adults. Mother Assumpta Interviews Joey Mccoy

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Joey McCoy, an advocate with i.d.9:16, took a moment to speak with Mother Assumpta about the organization and how he came to be involved. i.d.9:16 ministers to young adults, encouraging them to live out their Faith and to seek community with others. We must bring back the traditional communities if the Faith is to survive because it is only lived out amongst the people, not individuals living out their own lives independent of everyone else.

Mother Assumpta: 

I am so excited to interview a crazy Millennial. I think they’re wonderful, but I thought he might be crazy because I understand that he went to medical school, but then decided to be an evangelist. Can you tell us about how that happened? 

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Joey McCoy: 

My name is Joey McCoy, and I grew up in the Ann Arbor area. I first met all of you guys when my family moved up here and I started going to Spiritus Sanctus Academy. I was there from fourth grade through eighth grade. My teachers were Tina Sabka and Edmund Miller, and they were extremely helpful for me. Middle school is not an easy time of life, but it was a good place to be, and I’m deeply grateful for my time there. I ended up going to University of Michigan for college and then stayed at the University of Michigan for medical school. In college, I was focused on getting into a very good med school. I was exceedingly ambitious about worldly things and being successful in the ways that you should be successful if you listen to the world. I thought that if I got into a great med school, then I would be somebody. Of course, that didn’t deliver as idols never do. I ended up getting into several good med schools and did the whole interview process, and that whole time I was starting to sense in my heart that something’s not right. It was a dissatisfaction. There was a vertigo in life. I didn’t quite have my bearings and ended up going to University of Michigan for medical school. Once I got started doing this, it was going to be so great. Finally this vertigo feeling would go away, but it was spiritual vertigo. God was allowing a lot of the idol to fall. He was starting to get my attention. I was praying. I was going to prayer meetings. I was in men’s groups. I was trying to dial in to God, but there was work that had to be done. God was carving me out big time in a very goal-oriented direction. Suddenly I was there in med school, and I didn’t know which way was up. Life was very confusing for me. During that time, I started to cry out to God more and more. I started to pray more. I started to read more. I clicked into this new guy. I felt like I had no other option because I was quite confused. It’s hard to communicate why it was so strange, but it was very strange and God started to release a lot of that pressure in a sense of greater friendship and intimacy with Him and  greater knowledge of Him. When you taste God, you’re done. The greatest adventure of life is the greater discovery of the Living God, and as that started to happen for me more and more, I began to think, “ Maybe I’m being called as priest,” so I ended up taking a year off of med school to discern because I didn’t know. Maybe I’m not supposed to be in Med school. Maybe I’m supposed to go to seminary. Maybe neither. It was an amazing year. The things that God had begun to do in terms of carving out so that he can fill in. 

Mother Assumpta:

What did you do during this year? Did your parents think you were crazy?

Joey McCoy

I worked at a coffee shop. Yes, but my parents were thinking, “That’s a full ride scholarship to med school. This is an amazing opportunity. What are you doing? Just finish this.” This was not an easy decision for me to make for my family. There was a whole lot of darkness in me and in my mind about what I was doing, but I was trying to do what I felt the Lord was asking me to do. I interned at the coffee shop for a little bit and ran some things called an Alpha Course, so I was experimenting with ministry, but it was a very stripped down. I wasn’t trying to achieve a whole lot. I prayed a bunch, and I got a good rhythm of prayer each day and was reading good stuff. I was hungry for feeding my mind. Things God did for me that year are beyond communication in terms of the depth of Union and missionary outburst. I was overcome with a new love for people, particularly helping them find Jesus. I was working in a coffee shop with two typical Barista people who are on the journey, and I loved being with them in their pain and confusion in life. I loved trying to find a way to be a bridge between them and Jesus. I had all kinds of ways in which new gifts and capacities were coming alive in me, being able to notice what the Spirit was doing in each situation and conversation and steer it towards Jesus and pray with people for healing right in the middle of a coffee shop. At the end of that year, the Lord said, “You’re not supposed to be a priest. Go back to med school, and I’ll continue to speak.” I had no desire to go back to med school, but I did it anyway knowing that God was in control of all this. Through med school, I ended up meeting somebody and got married, but my desire for med school changed and grew less and less. At the end of medical school, I had to fundraise my own salary. I had to finish up med school and then not apply to residency having no intention to go through with medicine and then career shift towards doing what I was always doing on a volunteer basis, but now more full-time and in a larger capacity.

Mother Assumpta: 

God will surely work in your life now. Where did you go from there? How did you get into full-time Ministry? 

Joey McCoy: 

For a long time, I had connections to Renewal Ministries, which is headquartered in Ann Arbor and run by Ralph Martin, Sister Ann Shields, and Peter Herbeck. I had done mission trips with them. I’d also been a part of this young adult outreach they have called i.d.9:16. Pete Burak, a good friend of mine and now my boss, was running i.d.9:16, which was what I ended up joining. It was trying to take the things that I was doing with i.d.9:16 on an unofficial basis and make it more full-time. 

Mother Assumpta: 

Do you do a lot with young people? We’re looking at the virtue of justice in our culture where it’s dog-eat-dog. How do you find the young people? How do you evangelize them?

Joey McCoy:

Young adults think of Justice a lot. I work with 20s and 30s, mostly college Millennials. They’re great. Each generation has its quirks. With young people, we are obviously coming to a world that is highly saturated with technology and all of the ways it’s affecting society on a communal level. Technology makes you very self-focused. There are ways it can help us achieve things. It can also isolate people and make you more self-sufficient. Something Millennials talk about a lot is a desire for Community, even if they have no idea what that means, but that word is everywhere. You want to make an impact on the world. You want to discover your passions and live your passions. The main ways in which I find evangelization being effective for this isn’t just Millennials. It’s how the world is going. It’s older people being affected by this and younger generations. Leading them into a sense of justice is important because you can’t have the faith without other people. Unless you’re called to be a hermit, which is basically nobody, the faith without other people is nonsensical. The faith is going to be lived out with other people. God always leads us up towards Himself, and that leads us in towards other people out towards other people. Helping young people break out of that cocoon and take a risk and courageously try to be communal together discovering family, the extended family type of thing, which has been eradicated from a lot of our Western culture. On the move in the world is the only way I see evangelization has worked and how it will work in the future is by the body of Christ, not just living as a bunch of isolated individuals that randomly bump into each other, but by finding ways to be the people of God together as an extended family on a mission together.

Mother Assumpta: 

How do you do this? Practically? How do you how do you implement this with the people you work with? 

Joey McCoy: 

I mainly lead through i.d.9:16, and I’m experimenting with our chapters across the states that we work in. We are forming young adults into going past the programmatic approach that Church is often lived as a collection of programs and events. While those can be helpful, they’re like vitamins for a diet. Instead we’re trying to help people say let’s actually live this. What if we could actually live more as a community together? Form a community of 20 to 30 people that could live in a certain mission context together, whether that’s young adult, singles, young families, the homeless, baristas, whatever. You pick a mission context together that you are then sent to go make disciples of. You could also pick a certain neighborhood as an extended family to live the mission of evangelizing this neighborhood. This is very much what the old monastic age was all about. It’s the old evangelization as well as the new evangelization. In doing this, it’s trying to awake in people a sense of justice. Justice is giving to each person what is their due, and their due is love. How can I as a follower of Jesus be indifferent to the plight of my neighbors? How can I be indifferent to them not having a relationship with Jesus? Anyonewho doesn’t have that relationship is massively suffering in life because we’re made for Him. If we’re not living with Him in some way, then where we’re living in a way that we’re not meant to live. This is a certain hardness of heart in all of us. Certain parts of our heart are dead. You learn in med school that if part of the heart dies in a heart attack, it’s a scar. It’s tough, and it doesn’t move. The heart forever is beating off kilter. God wants to take those dead parts of our heart and make them come alive. He wants us to be His son or His daughter and His disciple, and simultaneously with that He gives us His heart for other people. Unless those who are trying to live a deeply Catholic life can become alive in this way, evangelization has no shot because it’s not just about saying all the right words and getting programs. It’s always going to be about relationship first and foremost.

Mother Assumpta: 

Years ago, families used to be together. Now most families are spread out all over the country, and they don’t have that community. Plus, you mentioned technology isolating us. We must look at the culture in which we’re living and figure out [what to do.] Thank you, Joe. I can’t thank you enough for the people working in evangelization like you with that zeal for God. You want people to love God. God wants us to be happy, and happiness comes from a spiritual life. God bless you and what you’re doing. Keep it up. It’s wonderful. Spread the word and get more young people because they’re wonderful. They’re the ones that got the energy and the drive, and I think you can hit them in the right direction. So many are out there in the wrong. 

Joey McCoy: 

A lot of young people are hungry for doing life a different way. They’re not just, “Let me do the American thing that’s been handed down.” A lot of young people are very satisfied with that, which I think is something good you can tap into because there’s a lot of ways in which to be more faithful people of God. We must break with a lot of the cultural, consumeristic, and individualistic ways of doing things. It’s fun working with young people. 

Mother Assumpta: 

It’s beautiful to see how God worked through your life. He works through trauma to bring out the best in people who suffer. It brings out the best in people if they can remember the good. God bless you, and thank you for what you’re doing. 


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